KARACHI, March 4: The Crime Investigation Department (CID) is claimed to have arrested a suspected militant belonging to a banned sectarian organisation and wanted for murders of leaders of a rival sect.

CID officials said the militant, belonging to the Sipah-i-Muhammad Pakistan, was wanted for his alleged involvement in several high-profile killings and sectarian attacks.

Hammad Riaz Naqvi, they said, was arrested after an encounter in Aswan Town of the Malir district.

They said that acting on a tip, a police party which reached the area saw four men on two motorcycles entering the locality.

“Police warned them to surrender, but they opened fire and tried to escape. Police returned fire and arrested one of them, Hammad Riaz Naqvi,” said CID SP Raja Umer Khitab.

He said the accused lived in the same area. Three of his accomplices, who escaped, were identified as Askari, Rauf and Qalbe Abbas.

Police also claimed to have found a bag in Naqvi’s possession containing two hand grenades, a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a pistol and ammunition.

“He was directly and indirectly involved in several high-profile killings and attacks.”

The CID official said the accused was a member of an inter-provincial gang of the banned outfit and had carried out several attacks in Punjab and Sindh since 2001.

Preliminary investigations, he said, showed that the man was involved in the murders of Maulana Azam Tariq in Islamabad and Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai in Karachi.

Mufti Shamzai was shot dead in May 2004, while Azam Tariq, the former head of the banned Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, was gunned down with his driver and three bodyguards in Oct 2003. At the time of his death, Azam Tariq was a member of parliament.

The officials also accused the same people of killing Mufti Mohammad Jameel and Nazeer Taunsvi in an attack in New Town in Sept 2004. In a separate attack, Mufti Attiqur Rehman, his son Ammar and Maulana Irshadul Haq were killed in Preedy area in June 2005.

They said that the same group, including the suspect, were allegedly involved in the explosions at a gathering in Multan to mark the first death anniversary of Maulana Azam Tariq in Oct 2004, which killed 53 people and injured more than 100.

SP Khitab said the gang’s first attack was on motor-mechanic Dakhtiar, an activist of Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), in 2001, who was shot dead.

Some weeks later, they attacked Haroon Qasmi, a leader and legal adviser of the banned SSP in Ferozabad area, in which the latter was injured. A year later, they attacked Mr Qasmi’s father Mohammad Ishaq and a brother. Mr Ishaq was killed. The accused attacked Mr Qasmi the third time in Jan 2005 killing him and a police constable.

The CID official described the gang as one of the most feared terrorist group in the country. According to him, it was headed by Dr Muntazir of Punjab.

“Dr Muntazir specifies targets and order others to plan the attack,” said a police official.

He said that Qalbe Abbas, who escaped after the encounter, was a police constable in Islamabad. He got himself transferred to Sindh Police in Karachi after the murder of Maulana Azam Tariq.

“Qalbe Abbas had mysteriously disappeared a couple of weeks earlier after the arrest of two of his gang members -- Mudassir and Mohammad Ali -- from Islamabad,” said a police official.

Sources said that Qalbe Abbas had the last posting as a police guard at the foreign affairs office in Karachi. The CID police had launched an extensive search operation in cooperation with Islamabad CID and Punjab police.

“We don’t know about the exact number of members of this gang, but they must be a dozen or more,” said an official.

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